How To Roast and Skin Hazelnuts

Few nuts are as notably improved by roasting as the hazelnut.

Most raw hazelnuts you find at the store are, in truth, a little chewy and a little bland, like a draft version of themselves. But a healthy roasting fixes that, boosting the flavor and allowing the excess water to evaporate, thereby leaving you with wonderfully crisp nuggets of pure nuttiness.

The bonus advantage of roasting hazelnuts is that it gives you the opportunity to skin them while you’re at it, rubbing them in a kitchen towel as the bitter husk easily detaches into a million little flakes you do not want to accidentally spill on your kitchen floor, trust me.

I’ve detailed the (super easy) process below, but first I wanted to ask: did you ever stop to wonder why the skin comes off hazelnuts more easily after roasting? Well, let me tell you why*. It’s because water, this incredible, magical element, expands when heated. This means that hazelnuts, which are partly made of water, become slightly bigger when heated. But their papery brown skin isn’t as elastic, so it is soon forced to loosen its grip on the surface of the nut. Once cooled, the hazelnuts return to their original size but the skin doesn’t stretch back down, remaining cracked, loose, and easy to rub off. Neat, huh?

Anyway. Here are the key steps in roasting and skinning hazelnuts:

Toasted Hazelnuts

Measuring

I roast my hazelnuts by the 500 grams (about 4 cups, a little over one pound) because that’s the amount that fits nicely in a single layer on my rimmed baking sheet, leaving the nuts a little — but not too much — wiggle room.

Roasting

I insert the baking sheet in the oven preheated to 180°C (360°F), and leave the nuts in for 15 minutes, stirring them every 5 minutes or so. They are done when they are fragrant, their skin cracked and glistening. Because the husk is pretty dark, it can be hard to tell if it’s starting to turn black and burn, so if you’re unsure, it’s best to err on the side of under-roasted.

Note: To make optimal use of the now heated oven, I may roast a batch of almonds or pumpkin seeds to follow, or schedule the roasting when I have another dish to bake.

Skinning

I pour the nuts into a clean kitchen towel (they may over-roast if left on the baking sheet) and let cool. I then close the towel up into a bundle, and give it an energetic massage so the hazelnuts will rub against one another and the skin will come off in little flakes. Not all of it will, and that’s okay.

Storing

I transfer the hazelnuts to a big jar, collecting them delicately from the towel with my cupped hands and making sure as little of the skin flakes come with. How long the roasted hazelnuts will keep before going rancid depends on how fresh they were to begin with — in most cases, you should be good for a couple of months.

Eating

I confess that most of the hazelnuts I roast and skin in this fashion, I end up snacking on with dried fruit such as prunes, figs, pears, or dates, as mentioned in this post about food gifts. But I also love to eat them on Roasted Cauliflower à la Mary Celeste, use them for a Hazelnut and Nectarine Gratin, or grind them to make Dukkah, this fantastic spice mix from Egypt. (More hazelnut recipes?)

Join the conversation!

Do you usually roast and skin the nuts you cook and bake with? And what’s your favorite way to enjoy hazelnuts?

* I only learned this recently as the owner of U Salognu described this very process to explain how he skinned the chestnuts for his chestnut flour.

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  • Elizabeth

    Yes! The other nut improved by roasting is the jungle peanut. I prefer all the other nuts raw.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      I had to look up jungle peanuts as I had never heard of them, and now I don’t think I can rest until I lay my hands on them. Thanks, really! :)

  • http://www.plattertalk.com Dan from Platter Talk

    Great primer!! Thanks for sharing, this will come in handy when I come up with something calling for hazelnuts, which I love!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      The way it works in my kitchen is that I toast the nuts first, with no particular purpose, and once they’re toasted and on hand I find plenty of uses for them. Otherwise the toasting just feels like one extra step between me and dinner, and it seems more bothersome to take care of it.

  • James

    Very interesting and helpful, but since you mentioned chestnuts, what’s your handy tip on skinning them? I have a pile of them that I have been dreading skinning for weeks…

  • http://www.acrookedmile.com Bekah

    Have you ever tried making pesto with hazelnuts? Just wondering. I do love hazelnuts, maybe that would be too many intense flavors, not sure…

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      I do love hazelnut pesto! It is indeed more intense than with pine nuts, but I like it a lot. I’ve made it with flat-leaf parsley instead of basil, which I think works better, and a strip of lemon zest to brighten the flavors.

  • http://Http://parisbreakfasts.blogspot.fr Parisbreakfast

    Very interesting…reminds me of seeing the French food magic guy, Herve This.
    Clotilde, i wonder if youve done nything eith the pretty noisette fraiche in the markets just now?
    I’m mystified…
    Merci Carolg

  • http://skinnywithfiber.org/ Christine Derrel

    Wow, those hazelnuts look sooo tasty!!! :)

  • http://revessurpapier.wordpress.com Rachel

    I do the tea towel trick too! (Can’t remember where I learned about it, but I’ve been using it for years.) I usually roast or toast the nuts I cook with, but hazelnuts are the only ones I ever bother to peel. (I once tried blanching my own almonds, but it was a lot more fiddly and time-consuming than peeling hazelnuts so I don’t mind paying a few more pence for blanched almonds.)

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      I agree! I just use unblanched almonds and call it fiber. :)

  • Judy

    Hazelnut pesto? I have never heard of this. Sounds great, think I might have to try this on the weekend, thanks!

  • Marsha

    Here’s how I skin the roasted hazelnuts.
    After they cool I will put 2 pieces of paper towel in a gallon ziploc bag and pour the nuts in between the two towels. Seal the bag and rub away! It works great and no towel to wash!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      I’d never heard about that technique, thanks for sharing!

  • Emilia

    I am a hazelnut addict (probably to related to my chocolate vice). I have an extra step between skinning and storing. Once I rub the hazelnuts with the towel, I transfer them to a colander, which I shake to get rid if as much of the little skin pieces as possible.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Good tip, I’ll try that next time! To clarify, do the flecks of skin fall through the holes of the colander, or is it just to loosen them further?

  • Eric

    This video says 5-10 minutes?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7bb1GsMEok

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      In my experience, 5 to 10 minutes at 350°F is definitely not enough.

  • http://www.healthworldjournal.com Sahil

    Certainly 5 to 10 Minutes at 350°F will not be enough.

  • gpbudin

    This came out just perfect. I cooked for exactly 13 minutes, stirring after 5 and 10.

  • BakerK

    I have whole, pre-skinned hazelnuts and was asked to use them in a brownie recipe. Should I roast them first or would they have come from the nut company roasted? They are light in color. Thanks!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com/ Clotilde Dusoulier

      If they seem light in color, with no golden hints, they are most likely unroasted. But the best way to tell is to trust your taste buds. Try one and see what you think: is it tender and mild (unroasted), or crisp and more assertive in flavor (roasted)?

      • BakerK

        Thank you for your fast response!!! They seem tender. I think roasting a bit would make the brownies much better. They asked for a “very hazelnut flavor” in them!

        • http://chocolateandzucchini.com/ Clotilde Dusoulier

          Definitely give them a roast, then. Happy baking, I hope your brownies turn out great!

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